Friday, March 1, 2013

the best is yet to come

written by John Messerly
Read Isaiah 25 and John 2

"On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine--the best of meats and the finest of wines." - Isaiah 25:6, NIV

"Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." - John 2:10

I was reading in John the other day, and was struck by this passage. Jesus's first miracle involved turning water to wine at a wedding; and not just any wine, the finest wine. The wine was so good, in fact, that it puzzled the master of ceremonies, because saving such good wine until the end of the feast wasn't typical.

On the surface, this miracle showed Jesus's supernatural power over nature; his ability to change the chemical composition of one substance (water, made simply of hydrogen and oxygen) into a wholly different substance (wine, made of complex molecules that contain not only hydrogen and oxygen, but also carbon, sodium, calcium, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese,... you get the point). But contained within the miracle was an object lesson: God wanted to point out that His Son, Jesus, had arrived and begun his earthly ministry. God had sent many prophets and messengers before Christ to lead, reprove, and exhort His people, but He had saved the best, the finest, His well-beloved Son, for last. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, even John the Baptist - they were all vastly inferior wine compared to the full-bodied blend of God and man that the Father was serving up.

Many fail to realize that the beauty of Christianity is completely manifested in Christ. He is our all in all, He is our Savior, He is our life. There's an old song that says "take the world, but give me Jesus"; I wonder how many Christians would be able to take that a step further and say "Take heaven, but give me Jesus." All too frequently Christians perceive our salvation as fire insurance; God set up rules, we broke them, so He felt bad and sent Jesus so that we could have a way to escape fiery anguish and instead be rewarded with a city paved with gold. That's not the case; if it were, it would mean that everything is about us, that we are the center of time and the universe, and that everything is made for our pleasure.

Heaven, even if it does have literal golden streets, is nothing without Christ there. Heaven is not our inheritance - Ephesians 1 tells us that Christ Himself is our inheritance. We look forward to heaven not because it's going to be free from the ravages of sin we see in this world (thorns, mosquitoes, pain), nor because it is going to be better than even the best this world can offer; we look forward to heaven because Christ will be there. Going to heaven means being freed of the separation imposed by these sinful prisons we call bodies and being united with Christ, to worship and fellowship with Him forevermore.

Isaiah talks of the future kingdom, and describes the Lord Almighty setting forth a feast for His people, "a banquet of aged wine--the best of meats and the finest of wines." I know that when I get to heaven, I'm not going to be taken up with the food, even if God has somehow managed to improve on filet mignon. My focus will be hanging out with Christ, the finest Wine, and drinking Him in for all of eternity. I hope you can say the same.


  1. I appreciate this thought that Christ is the pinnacle of the human experience, that He is the ultimate and final pleasure. But does acknowledging the preeminence of Christ make the other pleasures greater or smaller? Or, for that matter, are there other pleasures? Should we save room for the “last wine?”

    Logistically speaking, I've always wondered how heaven is going to work. Do we all take turns at the feet of Christ, like an eternal conveyer belt of worship? Or is there a supernatural way in which Christ will be personally, physically accessible to all His people simultaneously? Or perhaps I am misunderstanding what it means to be in the presence of Christ.

    In Colossians 1:16-18 we read that all things are created by Christ -existing in, through and for Christ. Ephesians 1:23 tells us that Christ “fills all and all.” So in other words, the story of all things is the story of Christ.

    So if Christ is the story of all creation, the lesson of all the prophets, why must it be said that Jesus is the “better wine?” Isn't He, actually, the only wine? Perhaps the Word of God taking on flesh is seen as the greatest wine not because the prophets told a different story than the glory of Christ, but because the life, death and resurrection of Christ is the bet way to tell the story of the glory of Christ. We understand the story better than when it was told through the prophets. If we had perfect discernment then perhaps all creation would tell us clearly the story of the glory of Christ.

    There is another old hymn that compares heaven to a wedding. “The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom's face, I will not gaze at glory, but at my King of grace. Not at the crown He giveth, but on His pierced hand, the Lamb is all the gory of Immanuel's Land.” If the Lamb truly is all the glory, what's wrong with gazing at glory? Is it a disservice to the Lord to recognize Him in His creation, or can we only recognize Him through His face? Or do we suspect it will be hard to see the glory of the Lord in all the Lord's glory? Do we really have to reject God's filet mignon?

  2. I'd stick with my comment that he's the best wine, not "the" wine, because while God was speaking through the prophets (and thus their presence contained a portion of God, so to say), in Jesus's case the prophet actually WAS God.

    Some of the Israelites (one might say the bulk of them) saw the different prophets, but stopped there. They saw them as great men, leaders, wise, and followed and obeyed them. Other Israelites saw the prophets not as independent entities but as the representatives of God on earth. On earth, a filet mignon can show me that God is good and gives good things, that he created man as an intelligent being who would know to not only kill the cow but cut it open, extract the best piece, and cook it to perfection. Or, a filet mignon can be a extremely delicious piece of meat.

    Not so in heaven; in heaven, none of us will ever let our focus remain on the thing itself. Instead, our attention and focus will be centered on God, on Christ - nothing will be enjoyed simply for what it is. That's why heaven isn't heaven without Christ; if we were put in a city with gold streets and pearly gates, and simply admired it as an awesome city with gold streets and pearly gates, it wouldn't be heaven.

  3. You say that in heaven "nothing will be enjoyed simply for what it is." I would state it the exact opposite: that in heaven perhaps all things will finally be enjoyed for what they truly are, a tribute to the glory of God.

    My argument is that all human experience of both nature and divine revelation has been telling the story of the glory of Christ, yet it has not been until His revelation in the flesh that many have seen so clearly His glory. And it will be in the future that all will see and recognize the preeminence of Christ. The story has not changed, the only thing that has changed, and will change, is our ability to understand the story.

  4. Good. I'll go to your thoughts on fairness -maybe we disagree there. (Playful emoticon)